Zgodba se začne, ko se srečno poročeni Rebecci smrtno ponesreči mož. Da bi ji pomagale prebroditi bolečino, jo obiščejo prijateljica Sylvie, mlajša sestra Lucy in bivša mačeha Alberta. Slednja za Rebeccin rojstni dan najame prikupnega pleskarja, da bi Rebecci prepleskal hišo. Ob njem se četvorica tako različnih žensk začne zavedati svojih čustev in se dokoplje do bistva svojega obstoja.
College poetry professor and poet Rebecca Trager Lott's husband Ben Lott has just died in a freak accident. Rebecca's support during this difficult time consists of her best friend Sylvie Morrow, her sister Lucy Trager, and her ex-stepmother Alberta Trager. Earth mother Sylvie is dealing with what she sees as the probable end of her own marriage to her husband Paul Morrow. Chain smoking Lucy is a directionless and insecure woman who is still mourning their mother's death fourteen years earlier from cancer. And Wall Street executive Alberta, who Lucy in particular doesn't like in her life (especially as Alberta and their father have since divorced) is a domineering but admittedly efficient woman who treats her personal life as an extension of her professional life. As time progresses and each woman deals with her own issues while trying to help Rebecca, a hunky house painter who they have nicknamed "Valentino" enters their collective lives. "Valentino" profoundly affects each of their lives, at the same time that Rebecca, the only one who is seen as having had the perfect marriage, provides what they hope is sage advice for their issues. What comes into question is the appropriate time that Rebecca is allowed to feel sorry for herself. She makes an admission about her marriage and about "Valentino" that may provide the answer.